Beyonce Gets Political, and I Get Snatched Bald: An Overview of Themes and Motifs in the Formation Music Video
It is important that you know, I am not even a Beyonce stan like that. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the post I am going to relate. If we were not perfectly convinced of Jacob Marley’s death before the play began, then there would be nothing remarkable about him showing up at his “business” partner’s house to bitch him out in the middle of the night.
It’s also important to note that Beyonce usually doesn’t go in for this sort of thing. She’s not really the Artist/Activist type. This video is the most political she has ever gotten, and I swear it took the convergence of Black Lives Matter, Black History Month, Mardis Gras, a Nat Turner Rebellion movie, the blatant disrespect of casting a white man to play Michael Jackson, and all the planets to bring us this blessing. Many have said Formation is the phrase, “I love my blackness, and yours.” given physical form. It is all that and more.
This opening line prepares us for the realness to come
Let’s start with the fact that Formation features a voice over by Big Freedia the Queen Diva of NOLA Bounce. If you don’t know Bounce music, or you don’t know Big Freedia–and if you don’t know Bounce, you won’t know Big Freedia–let me direct you to Youtube so you can educate yourself. I recommend you start with Excuse, and Y’all Get Back Now. Big Freedia also has a very nice feature in Ru Paul’s Peanut Butter.
All throughout this video we are treated to imagery from Black queer culture, from Big Freedia’s voice-over, to dancers, to queens just slaying in the beauty shop. Again, if you are unfamiliar with the richness of Black queer culture, I direct you to the internet, because there’s just too much to explain. Start with Paris Is Burning on Netflix and go from there I guess? Like, literal books have been written and it is too big an undertaking for me alone. But Formation is an anthem for Black Femmes as much as it is for Blackness in general.
Beyonce heard all y’all talking that shit about “Why is her hair always done, but she can’t make sure her baby’s hair is done?” Uh, because Blue is a child, and that is her NATURAL HAIR, and she clearly is ROCKING IT.
In fact, this video features A WEALTH of natural hair, textured hair, weaves, perms, braids, Black hair in general.
Note: Baby hairs are small, fine, wispy hairs on your hairline that your mother would brush or gel in a specific way. If you don’t know what a baby hair is, ask a Black person, or someone with “ethnic” hair (gag).
In fact, every single person in this video is Black except for the cops.
And let’s talk about that scene
A little black boy dancing his heart out in front of a line of cops in riot gear,
and the cops put their hands up. YES YES YES YES YESYEYSYESYES!!!!!
Please note the multiple nods to Majorette culture (okay ladies, now let’s get in formation, prove to me you got some coordination, slay trick or you get eliminated) which is very southern.
Formation is very southern
From Southern Gothic imagery
to people dressed for Mardis Gras
To the scenes with people dressed in 19th century Creole garb, in their parlors, with fans.
Now let’s examine some of the lyrics:
My Daddy Alabama, Mama Louisiana
This is more than a statement about Beyonce’s roots. The vast majority of Black Americans can trace their ancestry to the South, after many of us moved to northern cities in the Great Migration. To this day, the majority of Black people in the US live in the South. I’m a New Yorker for generations back on either side, but guess what? The family reunion each year is held in Virginia, because that’s where my people come from.
I like my negro nose and Jackson Five nostrils
There has literally never been a more full-throated, stalwart, stark as hell positive affirmation of Blackness in mainstream, popular media since the original Black Is Beautiful movement in the 60′s. Maybe not since the Harlem Renaissance? I predict In a few years, people will be inverting their contours and getting plastic surgery to achieve the coveted Jackson Five nostril. Only by then they’ll rename it something more palatable to the mainstream (Read: white people).
I got hot sauce in my bag
Let me tell you something about my septuagenarian Grandparents: they literally always have a bottle of hot sauce in their car. Like many retirees, they like to travel, take cruises, do old people stuff. Never have they ever gone anywhere without a bottle of hot sauce. Never has my grandfather been in a restaurant and not requested hot sauce–even though he always has his own.
As I type this, I have a bottle of hot sauce on my night stand, next to my bed. Why? Because I put that shit on everything, and it’s just more convenient to keep it handy. I put hot sauce on pepperoni pizzas. Sometimes I sip out of the hot sauce bottle like it’s a fine wine.
I make all this money, but they’ll never take the country out me
A reminder to never forget your roots, a statement about preserving your identity under the pressures of assimilation, or commentary on respectability politics–no matter how much money you make, how famous you become, you’ll always be Black to the powers that be? Trick question. It’s all three
BLACK AS HELL
Note: Red Lobster is known to be the de-facto Black date night restaurant. I have no idea why.
All of this culminates in Beyonce, sprawled atop a NOLA police car, sinking into the flood waters of Katrina. She metaphorically drowns the police in a flood caused by the colossal abdication of responsibility by those in power at the expense of the disenfranchised. She is prostrated on the symbolic corpse of the oppressor as it is subsumed by water.
I Literally Can Not.
Other images that made me want to praise dance:
Black man riding a horse down the street. Little known fact, Black people were some of the first cowboys in the American west. For the most famous example, see the actual man The Lone Ranger is based off of.
The newspaper with the picture of Martin Luther King and front page headline that read, “More Than A Dreamer.” A reference to the #ReclaimMLK movement, which is about countering the sanitized, white-washed, commodified version of his message with the reality of his radicalism.
The fact that the portraits on the walls of the mansion are of Black women
On this day in 1831 the Virginian slave Nat Turner began the deadliest slave rebellion the United States had ever seen, which resulted in the deaths of 55 whites. Turner, a slave preacher, had come to believe that God intended for him to lead a black uprising against the injustice of slavery. In the evening of August 21st 1831, Turner and his co-conspirators met in the woods to make their plans and early the next morning began the rebellion by killing Turner’s master’s family. Turner and his men, who soon numbered over 80, then went from house to house assaulting the white inhabitants. Eventually a local militia, and then federal and state troops, confronted the rebels and dispersed the group. Turner himself initially evaded capture but was captured on October 30th. Subsequently Turner, along with over fifty other rebels, was executed. However the retribution for Nat Turner’s rebellion did not end there. The uprising sent shockwaves across the South, and while full scale rebellion such as Turner’s was rare in the Deep South due to the rigid enforcement of the slave system, caused widespread fear of another rebellion. In the ensuing hysteria over 200 innocent black slaves were killed by white mobs. Turner’s rebellion came close to ending slavery in Virginia, as in its wake the state legislature considered abolishing the ‘peculiar institution’. However the measure was voted down and instead the state decided to increase plantation discipline and limit slaves’ autonomy even further by banning them from acting as preachers and learning to read. Similar measures were adopted across the slave-holding South and thus Nat Turner’s rebellion increased the South’s commitment to slavery, despite undermining the pro-slavery argument that it was a benevolent system and slaves were content. Turner has left behind a complicated legacy, with some seeing him as an African-American hero and others as a religious fanatic and villain; his memory raises the eternal question of whether violence is justified to bring about necessary change.
Written by Michael Burgan. Art by Richard Domingeuz, Bob Wiacek, and Charles Barnett III. Nat Turner was a slave in Southampton, Virginia. Fiercely intelligent, Turner had religious visions, and his charisma was such that he could sway people with his words. In 1831 he led the bloodiest slave rebellion in United States history when he took a solar eclipse as a sign from God that he, and his fellow slaves, deserved their freedom by any means necessary.
Can you recommend any new-ish hip-hop releases? I know I'm sure behind on so many but I have an awful memory for stuff like that.
Yeah, sure thing man. I’m assuming that by “new-ish” that you mean albums from this year? Here’s a list of my top 30 favorite projects from 2016 so far along with some honorable mentions. You can click the name of any project in the top 30 to hear it. If you’re looking for more than that though, you can check out my RateYourMusic page where i’ve got lists of my favorite hip hop projects for each year going back to 2000:
Average Rap Band - El Sol Black Milk & Nat Turner - The Rebellion Sessions Brous One - Consequences Dälek - Asphant For Eden Dillon & Paten Locke - Food Chain Elzhi - Lead Poison Emapea - Seeds, Roots, & Fruits Epidemic - 4 Dimensions On A Paper ScHoolboy Q - Blank Face Havoc & The Alchemist - The Silent Partner IDE - Breathe Easy Illingsworth - I Didn’t Ask For This Jak Tripper - Hideous Javier Starks - Indigo Child Kemba - Negus Kembe X - Talk Back K-Def - The Unpredictable Gemini K.A.A.N. - Uncommon Knowledge The Kleenrz - Season 2 Koi Child - Koi Child Lessondary - Ahead Of Schedule Masta Ace - The Falling Season deM atlaS - mF deM MindsOne And DJ Iron - Phaseology Moka Only - Malkin Jackson: Summerland Moses Rockwell - ahkwellington. dweeb supreme. three. Ocean Wisdom - Chaos ‘93 Oddisee - Alwast Ruste Juxx & Kyo Itachi - Meteorite Sadistik - Salo Sessions Skepta - Konnichiwa Slone - At The Boom Jazz Café Tonedeff - Polymer Westside Gunn - Flygod We Are Not For Them - Captures, Vol. 1
The 2017 Vanity Fair Hollywood Portfolio: Wonder Women
Aja Naomi King’s movie ascendancy as the slave girl Cherry in Nate Parker’s blazing battle cry, The Birth of a Nation (based on the Nat Turner rebellion of 1831), is a complete boomerang from the role that made her television rep. After an assortment of credits in film (“Positive Polly” in Whit Stillman’s Damsels in Distress and Rosa in the underseen comedy The Rewrite) and in prime-time series such as Emily Owens, M.D. and The Blacklist, King was whisked aboard the mother ship of Shondaland’s How to Get Away with Murder, starring the inviolable Viola Davis. Shondaland TV is not so much a place as a quantum state in which dialogue, events, character reversals, and shocking twists occur at speeds unknown to mundane humankind. King’s Michaela Pratt has been in the mad thick of it for three seasons, and the part of Cherry required a rapid deceleration and divestment of contemporary traits to fit seamlessly into the time, place, and tragic situation of southern slavery. This King did so artfully that you don’t see the art, only an eloquent act of being.
The origin of whites not being able to take what they’ve been dishing out. All the whites are afraid bc Nat Turner started his rebellion. They’re worried about their wives and children being murdered, the same way they had been murdering black families for years already. History really be repeating itself…wow
I’ve been following the discussion about “Bismuth” all day, but now that my work day is done and I’ve finally gotten to sit down and watch it the only thing I have to say is…Whew.
That was emotionally exhausting, mostly because every time I heard Bismuth say, “We are the Crystal Gems,” what I really heard is, “We Matter.” And if you really need to know who the we is there, then obviously you’re not going to agree.
Bismuth was raw and angry, yet joking to deal with the pain of what she went through. And in the end to see her say that to Steven, “I wish you would’ve shattered me so I wouldn’t have known how I didn’t matter."
It’s like being angry at a hopeless situation, living it, fighting it and being so angry that you can’t do anything more until you can and nobody agrees. I understood Bismuth, especially when she said, "You value their lives more than your fellow Crystal Gems?"
And if you still don’t know what I’m talking about, then I suppose I should spell it out: I saw in Bismuth what I sometimes see in me. Anger, real anger because of how things are. And while I don’t believe violence is always the answer I certainly don’t think it never is. You can’t…fight an oppressor fairly who doesn’t see your life as meaningful, who doesn’t always see you as human. Yeah there are non violent ways to deal with things, but there aren’t always. As a Black woman, with a Black son I understood Bismuth’s anger - and I respect it. In this context, would I myself go out and kill a bunch of white people because of the racism I face daily? No. But…am I horrified when slaves killed their masters? Upset that Nat Turner led a rebellion and murdered hundreds of his oppressors? No.
That whole, "turn the other cheek,” only works if your enemy has compassion. MLK was non violent and they killed him anyway, so that’s how far non violence gets you.
I’m disappointed in the Crewniverse right now, because to say “no one deserves this” or “violence is never the answer” is bullshit. That can’t always be the case. It’s important to understand not to shoot first and ask questions later (i.e. the Cluster) but every body can’t be changed, as Garnet said, “not everybody deserves your patience,” not everybody deserves a chance to “try” to be good. Meanwhile you sit and get beaten down everyday while you wait, for them to change. And sometimes, you just can’t.
As for those who call for her redemption, what redemption? She doesn’t NEED to be redeemed, she didn’t do anything wrong. Her anger was justified and Rose bubbling her is ultimately led to the massacre of the Crystal Gems. It rubs me the wrong way that people essentially want Bismuth to become “respectable” and do things Rose’s way, when Rose’s way was wrong. Bismuth is fine the way Bismuth is. And I hope that in the future as Steven Universe moves forward they address the fact that you have a right to be angry, that that hate vs hate speech is bullshit, that you don’t always have a choice to turn the other cheek and remain non violent.
Teach the babies that there was a time when we had our minds, when we had sense, when we knew that we didn’t deserve to be under other people’s domination. Maybe, just maybe, the children will do better than we have.
1519 Afrikans Revolt In Hispaniola
1522 Afrikans Revolt In Puerto Rico
1530 Afrikans Revolt In Mexico
1550 Afrikans Revolt In Panama And Peru
1639 Afrikans Revolt on Providence Island
1655 Revolt of 1500 Afrikans In Jamaica
1663-1739 75-Year Insurrection by Enslaved Jamaicans
1663 Enslaved Afrikans Rebellion In Gloucester County, Virginia.
1674 Afrikans Revolt In Barbados
1687 Afrikans Revolt In Antigua
1708 Enslaved Afrikan Rebellion In Long Island.
1712 Enslaved Afrikan Rebellion In New York City
1739 Enslaved Afrikan Rebellion In Stono, South Carolina
1760 Afrikans Revolt In Jamaica led by “Tackey”
1763 Afrikans Revolt In Dutch Surinam
1765 Afrikans Revolt In Honduras
1773 Enslaved Afrikans Revolt In Jamaica
1791 Beginning of Revolution of Afrikans In Haiti
1791-1803 Near 500,000 Enslaved Afrikans sucessfully revolt In Haiti
1796 Enslaved Afrikans Revolt In St Lucia
1800 Gabriel Prosser and 1,000 Enslaved Afrikans Attack Richmond, Virginia
1801 Revolt of Enslaved Afrikans In Guadeloupe
1811 Revolt of Enslaved Afrikans In St. Johns Parish, Louisana
1823 Revolt of Afrikans In Guyana
1828-1837 Revolt of enslaved Afrikans In Brazil
1831 Revolt of Afrikans In Antigua
1831 The Nat Turner Rebellion In Southampton County, Virginia
1844 Revolt of Enslaved Afrikans In Cuba
1848 Revolt of Enslaved Afrikans In The Virgin Islands
Early Slave Rebellions: Many Black slave rebellions and insurrections took place in North America during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Of those documented, there is evidence of more than 250 slave uprisings or attempted uprisings involving ten or more slaves. Three of the best known in the United States are the revolts by Gabriel Prosser in Virginia in 1800, Denmark Vesey in Charleston, South Carolina in 1822, and Nat Turner in Southampton County, Virginia, in 1831. The 1811 German Coast Uprising, which took place outside of New Orleans in 1811, involved up to 500 slaves. It was suppressed by volunteer militias and a detachment of the United States Army. They killed 66 black men in the battle, executed 16, and 17 escaped and/or were killed along the way to freedom. Slave resistance in the South did not gain academic or popular attention until the 1940s when historian Herbert Aptheker started publishing the serious research on the subject, stressing how rebellions were rooted in the exploitative conditions of Southern slavery.
For more info, search: 1811 German Coast Uprising, Nat Turner Rebellion, Gabriel Prosser, Denmark Vesey, Herbert Aptheker
So they made a made a movie about Nat Turner and the rebellion he lead in Virginia 1831 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nat_Turner). It Stars Gabrielle Union, Aunjanue Ellis, Aja Naomi King, Nate Parker and Oscar judge and racism denier Penelope Ann Miller.
I’m interested in seeing this.
What i don’t understand is why they decided to name this movie Birth Of A Nation.
BIRTH OF A NATION.
Why not just Nat Turner, The Rebellion or The Uprising of 1831. Something that wouldn’t be linked to the most racist movie ever made in America.
On August 21, 1831, one of the largest slave revolts in the history of the United States began: the Nat Turner Rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia. The drawing shows Nat Turner preaching in the forest.
I have two books out this year, POET: THE REMARKABLE STORY OF GEORGE MOSES HORTON (authored and illustrated), and THE AMAZING AGE OF JOHN ROY LYNCH (illustrated). Both books deal with the subject of African Americans who overcame great adversities in the backdrop of slavery and/or Reconstruction. Collectively the books have garnered 5 starred reviews from major book review journals, and have been praised widely elsewhere.
In general, with stories dealing with the topic of slavery—or history in general—I strive to be honest with children and not sugarcoat. History is not always sweet. I believe that children are smart, resilient, and can handle the truth. As one librarian recently said to me about the topic, “Children have no problem with getting down in the mud.” I owe it to children to tell the truth.
In POET, I portray the anger of enslaved African Americans during a slave rebellion scene, several enslaved people brandishing weapons. A white slave owner has been killed. A white mother reaches out to shield her child from the violence. It was a difficult scene and a lot of thought went into it. When I was a kid, I always wondered why enslaved people didn’t fight back. I’d say things like, “No one would have made me a slave, I’d have fought back!” Well, guess what, many times, enslaved people did fight back! Take Nat Turner, whose rebellion caused fear in slaveowners all over the south
But as a kid, I never saw that depicted in books, so I didn’t know. Had I known, I might not
have felt so ashamed every time the topic of slavery came up in sixth-grade history class.
In THE AMAZING AGE OF JOHN ROY LYNCH, I show the fear in an enslaved child’s face, before a relative is about to be whipped by a white man, an angry mob looks on. This is what happened, it was real life for the children who lived through it. I owe it to my ancestors to portray their stories accurately, with empathy, sensitivity, with consideration to my young audience.
Broaching the subject of slavery can be a tricky one, though. Should an enslaved person ever be pictured smiling? Well, it depends upon what is happening in a story. In POET, I pictured Horton on the cover of the book with a glowing smile, although he is enslaved and not freed until later in life. On the first page of the book, I also pictured him with a (slight) smile, all the while, the text on the page reads that “George was enslaved.” That was a tough call, and I revised that spread many times. I worried about what young Horton’s expression might communicate to young readers (and reviewers) about Horton’s condition.
In the end, I stayed true to Horton’s story, based upon reading his autobiographical sketch in THE POETICAL WORKS. Horton’s life was full of sadness, tragedy, disappointment, anger, misery. He had to perform daylong, backbreaking work, without pay. At seventeen, he was given away to the family member of his master, separated from his family. I made sure to include these sad realities in my text. But do you think Horton, still enslaved, did not smile as he held a copy of his published books in his hands? It’s all about context. What is happening in a story when the smile occurs?
As book creators, we need to be careful not to portray enslaved people as happy in their condition as slaves, but we also have to remember that smiles humanize, they offer hope.